Robert Matthew-Walker writes... The English musicologist and critic Max Harrison died on 7 May 2017 at the age of eighty-seven, following a debilitating stroke five years ago. He was a world authority on piano repertoire as well as on jazz, and was perhaps best known for his regular monthly contributions, principally on piano music, for The Gramophone from 1967-90. He also wrote extensive articles and entries for many other journals and reference works, most notably his much-admired entry on jazz for the 1980 edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. In his later years Max was a regular and penetrating critic for Musical Opinion, where he concentrated almost entirely on piano recitals.

Max published a number of books on jazz, co-authoring several, as well as on classical music. Among his last publications was a detailed and incisive study of the life and work of Rachmaninov, threading within its comprehensive narrative a notable assessment of the composer’s pianism as exemplified through his many recordings. Max’s study of the life and work of the jazz clarinettist Charlie Parker is also widely considered to be one of the finest studies of its kind ever published, and did much to raise the perception of jazz as a subject to be taken seriously.

Max sometimes gave the impression of being a somewhat aloof and private individual, but at heart he was a warm and staunch companion, and unquestionably one of the finest music critics the UK has produced since 1945.

 

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